Saw a list of th world's most traded commodities, how can it be right?

Really, gold is number four but basic building materials like lumber, steel/iron, and aluminum don’t even make the list? That doesn’t sound right at all. Coffe being number two also really surprised me.

I did not see a unit of measurement or a list of references. Maybe they are using most traded by volume as opposed to mass or vice versa and that produces the non-intuitive results. Another possibility is that lumber and steel are not traded as much because their abundance makes it possible for the major users to smelt/grow their own and sell products made of lumber and steel as opposed to the raw materials.

PS that link is clickbait and you should feel bad :smiley:

This list, specifically the part about Coffee being #2, is one of those unsupported internet claims that’s spread around because it sounds neat it it were true. It’s probably not though. The best explanation I could find of what’s really going on is from Wikipedia:
“Dating to the 1970s, coffee has been incorrectly described by many, including historian Mark Pendergrast, as the world’s “second most legally traded commodity”.[124][125] Instead, “coffee was the second most valuable commodity exported by developing countries,” from 1970 to circa 2000.[126] This fact was derived from the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development Commodity Yearbooks which show “Third World” commodity exports by value in the period 1970–1998 as being in order of crude oil in first place, coffee in second, followed by sugar, cotton, and others. Coffee continues to be an important commodity export for developing countries, but more recent figures are not readily available due to the shifting and politicized nature of the category “developing country”.[124]”

In other words, this list shows the most valueable commodities exported by developing countries, maybe.

I’ve seen this a bunch of times and it is BS.

I used to work in iron ore export, and even this basic bulk commodity through the one port I worked at killed the entire coffee output by volume, price, and whatever other metric you want to use.

ITC has some good, potentially even accurate, information. Coffee in 2014 - 8 MT produced worldwide to the value of 31 Billion USD. Compare to iron ore, 116 Bilion USD value and near 1.5 Billion MT.

I’m sure all other industrial commodities will also similarly outstrip coffee, and most other agricultural commodities also.


The beer market is really quite large, even compared to coffee. From here

… apparently a $104.2 billion conglomerate will control a 28.4% market share in the global beer market. So, x x 28.4 = 100.

x = 100/28.4= 3.52112676056338

So, (InBev Conglomerate) x x = global beer market dollar value = $366.901 billion.

‘Traded’ doesn’t necessarily mean any weight or volume of physical commodity actually moved from one place to another though, or materially changed hands, does it?

Well no, it could all be a bunch of paperwork. But it is a datum, and you gotta start somewhere…

So if a $10 unit of gold changes hands 20 times in a year, that counts as “$200” in trade volume, while if a $50 unit of iron ore changes hand just once (from the miner to the forge), it counts as “$50” in trade volume?

The only way I could see this is relevant is that if you could somehow come up with some kind of consistent scheme, better than the average trader, such that on average you made a small amount of money on average each trade, it would be better to run your speculative scheme on a trading market with more trade volume.

That’s because your scheme, whatever it is, if you got it going on a large enough scale, your own trades are affecting the market prices themselves. Such schemes aren’t fictional - Warren Buffet is famously known for being able to somehow analyze companies and find ones that were “mispriced” by the marketplace. The market isn’t always right, sometimes “conventional wisdom” is consistently wrong. However, now that Buffet is playing with billions instead of millions, I suspect that the market price for companies that Buffer might want to buy (based on various things people have gleaned about his methods) are now higher than they were when Buffet was just another trader.

With all that said, I have a sneaking suspicion that it’s probably straightforward to come up with a commodities trading scheme that makes you a little bit of money most of the time, but fails and negates all your gains whenever the market has a sudden, unexpected change.

Yeah and if you counted poker chips you might get an even larger number. Trading in gold is essentially a form of gambling. Trading in iron is just way of selling and buying it for actual use. Coffee may be an intermediate case.

What if you went by the number of actual trades? As in, the total number of transactions?

Beer is sold as a product but not traded as a commodity.

I suspect we need to know the definition of traded. The ten commodities listed all have futures contracts. In the futures market coffee is traded without any beans ever going anywhere. While a futures contract nominally calls for the short party to eventually deliver the commodity, almost all futures contract positions are unwinded before delivery. That is the person long a coffee contract will sell one. This nets the position to zero rather than creating one long and one short. So that would be two trades of coffee with no coffee actually going any place.

Basically, it’s a casino game where people are playing with chips representing units of coffee instead of chips representing money. And it’s totally legal to play anywhere, and the game itself is connected loosely to the real world economy, so degenerate gamblers can sometimes play the game so hard they crash the economy for everybody else. Oh, and the house is always coming up with new variants on the game (“financial innovations”) to suck in more gamblers…

There is a hint that they are counting the brewed cups, so including the water used in that value

From the OP’s cite

With the mergers in the beer space recently, it is closer to a commodity all the time!



#1. Oil

#57 Coffee

Beer is not in the top 100.

Actually, quite the opposite, with the huge rise of local microbreweries.

Jesus, there’s even a microbrewery in Havre, Montana. Havre “The Water Is Alka-Seltzer” Montana has a company devoted to the idea of making beer with local water.

So, no. CoorsMillerInBevBushCheney notwithstanding, beer is in no way becoming a commodity.

yes, well that would cut down the market, given there are probably less than 20 players of significance. and the top 5 players accommodate 80% of the market volume. and individual consignments are in the realm of 250,000 tonnes plus, per.

I guess there is a way to call coffee the most traded commodity depending how you define ‘most traded’ but it would be quite specific and in my view, totally meaningless. If you define ‘most traded’ based on the highest amount of caffeine then almost certainly coffee is top 3, ha.

Alcoholic beverages is 29.

Can’t anyone take a joke anymore!?

Bingo. Most traded. A relatively small commodity measured by value of production can be one of the most traded if the same units of production change hands at a higher rate, and especially including futures markets where the trading doesn’t even correspond to physical units changing hands.

For example world iron ore production is worth order of $150bil, world coffee production order of $28bil (just applying recent avg benchmark prices to total production, rough because it varies by type of ore/coffee) . But iron ore is often bought and sold on long term contracts and the iron ore futures market isn’t very active compared to the value of production. Coffee is traded a lot on spot physical markets and active futures markets compared to the value of production.

I can’t vouch for the exact accuracy of the link, it might even be limited to just futures trading volume which is easiest to research. But most commodities without big futures markets also don’t get traded that much on spot physical markets, or vice versa, symbiotic relationship between the two.